Federal budget winners: marine science, space science and astronomy

13 May 2009

The federal budget announcement made on 12 May 2009, includes $19.5 million for the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, and $160.5 million for space and astronomy research and infrastructure.

The Sydney Institute of Marine Science was established in 2005 by the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Technology Sydney and Macquarie University. The marine research facility, located on Chowder Bay on Sydney's north shore, hosts 55 marine researchers working on issues that are critical for the sustainable management of coastal and oceanic environments.

The $19.5 million for the Sydney Institute of Marine Science is from the federal government's Education Investment Fund under the Research category, which was allocated through a competitive grant application process.

Using the new funding, scientists at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science will research threats to marine ecosystems arising from climate change, urbanisation, changing coastlines and marine microbes.

"The $19.5 million funding will make the Sydney Institute of Marine Science a world class marine centre. The money will enhance both the Institute's research and training," said Professor David Day, member of the Board of Directors for the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, and Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney.

"The Institute will have new laboratories built to house cutting-edge molecular and chemical work, a new research teaching laboratory to increase training capacity, and new accommodation for research students and visiting researchers from Australia and the world."

University of Sydney scientists in the School of Physics are also winners in the budget announcement, with $160.5 million being put towards space and astronomy research.

Around half of this funding - $80 million - will go towards increasing Australia's chances of hosting the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world's biggest and most sensitive radiotelescope. Western Australia is one of two possible locations in the world for the telescope facility; the other is in South Africa.

The budget provides $80 million for the Australian National Centre of SKA Science in Perth, which will manage the huge amount of data flowing from the Australian SKA Pathfinder radiotelescope and later the SKA.

University of Sydney astronomers are involved in the SKA project through the SKA Molongolo Prototype where new technology for the SKA is being developed and tested.

Other astronomy projects to be funded in the budget are $20.9 million for Australia to take sole responsibility for the Anglo-Australian Observatory, home of Australia's largest optical/infrared telescope, and $10 million to construct state-of-the-art instruments and data acquisition infrastructure to store, process and analyse information captured from different next-generation telescopes.

As part of the $160.5 million for space and astronomy research, $40 million has been allocated in the budget for a new Australian Space Research Program to support space research, innovation and skills development in areas of national significance. There is also $8.6 million allocated to establish a Space Policy Unit, which will provide whole-of-Government advice on space and industry development.

Professor Iver Cairns, from the School of Physics, is Chair of the Steering Committee of the National Committee for Space Science who is putting together the first Australian decadal plan for space science.

"This budget has truly exciting news for the Australian space science community. We have been working together across institutions for several years to convince government, industry and academia that space science and space, more generally, should be national priorities and are at a stage that's ready for Government investment," said Professor Cairns.

"It's a historic moment - this is the first time the Australian Government has created a dedicated Space Research program with a dedicated Space Science Program. It's wonderful news for space scientists.

"In addition to the $48.6 million for space research, the budget provides funding for other space science initiatives, specifically in Earth observation such as the Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network, climate science, and several others under the Super Science initiative category," said Professor Cairns.

Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

Email: 1b51041221063468251e145d3523363113692a0a00172c11